2 min

Trans woman detained in male-only prison upon entering Canada

UK comedian Avery Edison held after being denied entry because of visa violation

Trans British comedian Avery Edison was denied entry into Canada and detained in a male-only prison facility after landing at Pearson International Airport Feb 10. Credit: Twitter photo

Trans British comedian Avery Edison was denied entry into Canada and detained in a male-only prison facility after landing at Pearson International Airport Feb 10.

Edison, who lived in Toronto until recently while studying at Humber College, said on Twitter that she was returning to visit her girlfriend and other friends. She said she was denied entry because she had previously overstayed her student visa.

Edison posted Twitter updates throughout the evening of Feb 10 about her ordeal at the airport. They were collected in a Storify time line by Jason Sweeney

“In addition to being merely inconvenient, this is a humiliating experience that makes me feel like a criminal. Very dark thoughts ATM,” Edison wrote as it became clear she would be sent home.

Guards detaining Edison repeatedly referred to her as a male, Edison says.

“Initial interviewing officer is telling another about my depression, keeps switching he/she. MY PASSPORT IS FEMALE,” Edison wrote.

At one point, Edison believed she was being transferred to a female detention facility in Milton, and she decided to go rather than buy a ticket for the next direct flight home.

“I can leave tonight/tomorrow, if a friend buys me a ticket on a different airline (as AirTransat don’t fly ’til Thursday), BUT . . . I want to go to the detention centre so I can get visiting hours with the two people who waited in arrivals for me all day . . . And because I would like to fight this, because this is wrong. Yes, I messed up, but my treatment has been deplorable,” Edison wrote in multiple Twitter posts.

But later that night, she was informed that she’d be sent to Maplehurst Correctional Complex for a medical assessment of her gender. Maplehurst is a men’s facility.

“Change of plan AGAIN. Will be moved, soon, to Maplehurst correctional facility and assessed by a nurse before placed in male or female cell . . . Literally going to jail. Actual jail. Because they don't know what to do about my junk,” Edison wrote.

News of Edison’s ordeal spread like wildfire on social media Feb 11, with the hashtag #FreeAvery becoming a rallying point for supporters.

“I’m so incredibly grateful for everyone’s support. I’m alternating between furious and unable-to-stop-crying. Your messages are amazing,” Edison posted before being removed from the airport. She lost internet access once she left the airport’s WiFi zone.

Edison’s girlfriend Romy Sugden, whose Twitter account is @rahrahtempleton, wrote that guards and receptionists repeatedly referred to Edison as male when she contacted them.

“When I asked why they were contravening [Canadian] law by housing a woman in a men’s facility, employee informs me that she was told . . . [Edison] has male parts, so male prison. Then referred to Avery as he for the rest of the conversation,” Sugden tweeted.

Edison was also told that she wouldn’t be put in a cell with other prisoners, for her own protection, Sugden says. She says that she was able to visit Edison Feb 11 and that she’s “holding up like a fucking champ.”

The Ministry of Community Safety and Corrections Services and the Office of the Ontario Ombudsman did not immediately respond to Xtra’s requests for comment.

Xtra is following the story.